Gold Shop / Yankees logo courtesy of our in house art guru XRAT
2009 was probably a bit of a mixed bag overall. Barack Obama became the new face of America, giving us a much needed pr boost. The Yankees won the world series. Michael Jackson died, leaving the world in mourning, further reminding us that the world is in short supply of music legends, and we don’t seem to be creating any new ones. The music industry as a whole continued its death spiral unimpeded, with the one exception being the vinyl market. There seemed to be a lot of press in 2009 about the resurgence of vinyl, and for once I started to agree with these articles. When I was distributing new releases from Jamaica, I used to loath this type of press, as it was only true for genres like rock which had abandoned vinyl over a decade ago. Genres like Reggae who never stopped releasing vinyl have seen a steady drop off in sales since the advent of the cd burner. In fact, I think that reggae djs were the first to go to cd, even as hip hop and dance music djs managed to stick it out for a couple more years. Part of this was the fault of the producers, who started to supply radio and sound djs with promo cds long before the records were available. You couldn’t really blame the people who had originally lined up at the record stores every week for wanting to stay current. If this meant switching to cd, so be it, it was certainly cheaper. When you removed the djs, the only people left buying records are collectors, and it has taken the industry a long time to figure this out. In the last couple of years however the message is starting to get out there. While Jamaica continues to churn out new dancehall records which would only appeal to a decidedly non vinyl crowd, the rest of the world has started releasing records specifically geared towards actual record collectors. There has been a huge increase in the amount of Roots releases, primarily on 10 Inch which are mostly produced by and for Europeans. Along with this, reissues have come back to the forefront and are starting to become a mainstay of the vinyl business. In my opinion, 2009 was a pretty good year for reggae re-issues, and for once I could start to see a correlation between reggae re-issues and the type of re-issues that seem to be coming out in other genres and generating all of this press about the growing vinyl market. Considering how dead the market is for new releases, the fact that re-issues are selling at all is reason for optimism. The people who put out re-issues last year definitely put in the amount of time and care required. Deadly Dragon Sound have been a central hub for reggae collectors worldwide, and they have also been behind some great re-issues. In 2009 they released the killer from Icho Candy “Bloodsucker”, definately one of the best from the Ujama catalog. Digikiller Records came on the scene rough in 2009 as well. After a couple of releases on the Crat label, they came with a massive 12 Inch on the Yah Congo label. By combining two massive roots tunes onto one 12 inch they made available two utra rare tunes, Freddie Mckay – Take My Hand Oh Jah and Naggo Morris – You Want To Get I out. The response was massive. If you are reading this blog, then you are probably aware of the releases that Gold Shop put out on the Eclipse, Part 2, and African Love labels. Standout tunes where Sammy Levi – Come Off The Road, Sluggy Ranks – Sodom & Gomorrah, and Shinehead – Mama Used To Say. For 2010 we plan to put out a whole lot more, so stay tuned to this space for further updates. Not every re-issue label is based in NY however, GB Distribution from London put out some great releases, most notably from Dixie Peach on the Jah Tubbys imprint. Dub Store from Tokyo released some great re-issues of Bunny Wailers productions which set a new high for quality of packaging (and price!). Looking forward for 2010, I would expect that there will be many more well received re-issues, which will hopefully drive some people into the record shops. As bright as the future looks for releasing re-issues, it does not look so bright for the shops that sell them. Here in NYC most of the original landmark shops have closed, or at least stopped selling vinyl. Special big up to Deadly Dragon, NY’s only all vinyl reggae specialist shop. Moodies in the Bronx is probably the only store left of the original 80s stores in NY which still sells vinyl, and remains basically unchanged. Worldwide we are experiencing the same thing, with foundation shops closing or diverting there attention to cds and dvds. The one shop that has managed to continually re-invent themselves without losing the original identity or focus is Dub Vendor in London, which I am going to say in my completely biased opinion is the worlds greatest reggae specialist shop. If reggae music is your obsession, make it a point of paying a visit to Dub Vendor for a taste of the past and the future.